Column | Spring break on a budget
Ah, springtime, when trees begin to bud, robins start nesting and daylight savings time launches its soul-crushing intrusion into the lives of the American people. (I suspect the Russians are behind it – or at least Stormy Daniels. )In addition to this sadistic clock-changing ritual, we parents know that spring break lurks just around the corner, waiting to give us a wet willy with unreasonable expectations of exciting vacations, quality time with family, or altruistic acts of volunteerism. Fear not, though.
Based on my experience this year with my three daughters, I offer you a few simple steps to make your future spring break holidays relatively inexpensive and uneventful intermissions from the chaos of your daily life.
The first step may be the most important (and certainly the most enjoyable). To avoid the hassles mentioned above, it's absolutely critical that you resolve to spend at least half of the week asleep. Although this may mean threatening your children with an Algebra tutor if they emerge from their bedrooms before noon, the idle warnings will be well worth it. While your friends and acquaintances are up at the crack of dawn freezing their toboggans off on some rickety ski-resort chair lift, or digging sand out of their sunburned navels at a tropical beach paradise, you can simply flip your pillow over to the cool side and contemplate whether or not you'll put on pants that day.
Step two kicks off the week's engaging outings and could even be classified as educational. Try taking the kids to do business at a local government agency, giving them an up close and personal look at how a convoluted and inefficient bureaucracy spends your hard-earned tax dollars (before the kids spend whatever's left). For example, if you have a child approaching driving age, and you haven't already checked yourself into assisted living, you could visit your local DPS office to apply for a learner's driving permit.
The process is bound to kill at least an entire day – or what's left of it after following step one. That's because no matter how well-prepared you are, you'll undoubtedly have to make two visits. On your first trip, you'll wait in the designated holding pen for ten eternities, only to be informed by the customer service representative that you have foolishly included a photocopy of your child's official birth certificate, vaccination records, FBI dossier, classified emails or AKC registration form, instead of the original document. Then, it's back home to dig through the filing cabinet until you find the document wedged between the instructions to your hot water heater and an old book of S&H Green Stamps. If you're really lucky, you'll make it back to the DPS office just before they close (and before you go off like an over-microwaved bratwurst).
Step three involves making several routine trips to Walmart, possibly on the same day, depending on which items you forget to purchase the first time. For instance, forgetting deodorant might mean a return trip in a day or two, while forgetting bean dip classifies as a real emergency and requires immediate re-shopping. Taking children of any age to Walmart will at least double the time normally required to navigate the aisles. With small children, the delay is a result of stopping the cart periodically for a good cry – from the parents. When shopping with teens, additional time is required to organize a search party to determine their exact whereabouts once you're ready to leave. Either way, plan to be at "the Walmarts" until bedtime.
If any remnants of spring break remain after following steps one through three, be patient. At least one child is bound to come down with a stomach ache, headache, earache, sore throat, stuffy nose, weird rash or foreign object lodged in a crucial orifice that will require a trip to a medical facility, followed by an agonizing wait in line at Walgreen's so that the pharmacy technician can inform you that the prescribed medication is out of stock.
By this time, spring break should be well on its way to a merciful demise, and you can start preparing for your regular routine of work, school, and Russian meddling.